What They Do: Masonry workers use bricks, concrete blocks, concrete, and natural and manmade stones to build masonry structures.
Work Environment: The work is physically demanding because masons lift heavy materials and often must stand, kneel, and bend for long periods. Poor weather conditions may reduce work activity because masons usually work outdoors. Most masons work full time.
How to Become One: Most masons have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn either through an apprenticeship program or on the job.
Salary: The median annual wage for masonry workers is $46,500.
Job Outlook: Employment of masonry workers is projected to decline 3 percent over the next ten years.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of masonry workers with similar occupations.
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Masonry workers, also known as masons, use bricks, concrete blocks, concrete, and natural and manmade stones to build walls, walkways, fences, and other masonry structures.
Masons typically do the following:
Masonry materials are some of the most common and durable materials used in construction. Brick, block, and stone structures can last for hundreds of years. Concrete—a mixture of cement, sand, gravel, and water—is the foundation for everything from decorative patios and floors to huge dams or miles of roadways.
The following are examples of types of masons:
Brickmasons and blockmasons—often called bricklayers—build and repair walls, floors, partitions, fireplaces, chimneys, and other structures with brick, terra cotta, precast masonry panels, concrete block, and other masonry materials. Pointing, cleaning, and caulking workers are brickmasons who repair brickwork, particularly on older structures from which mortar has come loose. Refractory masons are brickmasons who specialize in installing firebrick, gunite, castables, and refractory tile in high-temperature boilers, furnaces, cupolas, ladles, and soaking pits in industrial establishments.
Cement masons and concrete finishers place and finish concrete. They may color concrete surfaces, expose aggregate (small stones) in walls and sidewalks, or make concrete beams, columns, and panels. Throughout the process of pouring, leveling, and finishing concrete, cement masons monitor how the wind, heat, or cold affects the curing of the concrete. They use their knowledge of the characteristics of concrete to determine what is happening to it and take measures to prevent defects. Some small jobs, such as constructing sidewalks, may require the use of a supportive wire mesh called lath. On larger jobs, such as constructing building foundations, reinforcing iron and rebar workers install the reinforcing mesh.
Stonemasons build stone walls, as well as set stone exteriors and floors. They work with two types of stone: natural-cut stone, such as marble, granite, and limestone; and artificial stone, made from concrete, marble chips, or other masonry materials. Using a special hammer or a diamond-blade saw, workers cut stone to make various shapes and sizes. Some stonemasons specialize in setting marble, which is similar to setting large pieces of stone.
Terrazzo workers and finishers, also known as terrazzo masons, create decorative walkways, floors, patios, and panels. Much of the preliminary work of pouring, leveling, and finishing concrete for terrazzo is similar to that of cement masons. Epoxy terrazzo requires less base preparation and is significantly thinner when completed. Terrazzo workers create decorative finishes by blending fine marble chips into the epoxy, resin, or cement, which is often colored. Once the terrazzo is thoroughly set, workers correct any depressions or imperfections with a grinder to create a smooth, uniform finish. Terrazzo workers also install decorative toppings or polishing compounds to new or existing concrete.
Masonry workers hold about 302,100 jobs. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up masonry workers is distributed as follows:
|Cement masons and concrete finishers||200,400|
|Brickmasons and blockmasons||81,900|
|Terrazzo workers and finishers||3,000|
The largest employers of masonry workers are as follows:
|Poured concrete foundation and structure contractors||27%|
|Construction of buildings||11%|
|Heavy and civil engineering construction||7%|
As with many other construction occupations, the work is fast-paced and strenuous. Masons often lift heavy materials and stand, kneel, and bend for long periods. The work, either indoors or outdoors, may be in areas that are muddy, dusty, or dirty. Inclement weather can affect masonry work, but some masonry work, such as setting up floors, may not be affected.
Brickmasons and blockmasons risk injury on the job. Cuts are common, as are injuries occurring from falls and being struck by objects. To avoid injury, workers wear protective gear such as hardhats, safety glasses, high-visibility vests, and harnesses and other apparel to prevent falls.
Most masons work full time, and some work overtime to meet construction deadlines. Masons work mostly outdoors, so inclement weather may affect their schedules. Terrazzo masons may need to work hours that differ from a regular business schedule, to avoid disrupting normal operations.
Get the education you need: Find schools for Masonry Workers near you!
Most masons have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn either through an apprenticeship program or on the job.
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for most masons.
Many technical schools offer programs in masonry. These programs operate both independently and in conjunction with apprenticeship training. Some people take courses before being hired, and some take them later as part of on-the-job training.
Most masons learn the trade through apprenticeships and on the job, working with experienced masons.
Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Apprentices learn construction basics, such as blueprint reading; mathematics for measurement; building code requirements; and safety and first-aid practices. After completing an apprenticeship program, masons are considered journey workers and are able to perform tasks on their own.
The Home Builders Institute and the International Masonry Institute offer pre-apprenticeship training programs for eight construction trades, including masonry.
Some workers start out working as construction laborers and helpers before becoming a mason.
Color vision. Terrazzo workers need to be able to distinguish between small variations in color when setting terrazzo patterns in order to produce the best looking finish.
Dexterity. Masons repeatedly handle bricks, stones, and other materials and must place bricks and materials with precision.
Hand–eye coordination. Masons apply smooth, even layers of mortar; set bricks; and remove any excess before the mortar hardens.
Physical stamina. Brickmasons must keep a steady pace while setting bricks. Although no individual brick is extremely heavy, the constant lifting can be tiring.
Physical strength. Workers should be strong enough to lift more than 50 pounds. They carry heavy tools, equipment, and other materials, such as bags of mortar and grout.
Unafraid of heights. Masons often work on scaffolding, so they should be comfortable working at heights.
The median annual wage for masonry workers is $46,500. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,250, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,250.
Median annual wages for masonry workers are as follows:
|Brickmasons and blockmasons||$53,100|
|Terrazzo workers and finishers||$52,180|
|Cement masons and concrete finishers||$44,810|
The median annual wages for masonry workers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Construction of buildings||$49,840|
|Poured concrete foundation and structure contractors||$44,610|
|Heavy and civil engineering construction||$44,590|
Although most masons work full time, some work more hours to meet construction deadlines. Masonry work is done mostly outdoors, so masons may have to stop work during inclement weather. Terrazzo masons may need to work at night when businesses are closed.
Overall employment of masonry workers is projected to decline 3 percent over the next ten years.
The employment of masons is linked to the overall demand for new building and road construction. Masonry, such as brick and stone, is still popular in both interior and exterior applications, but changes in products and installation practices are expected to decrease the need for masons. For example, fewer workers are needed to install innovations such as thin bricks, which allow buildings to have the look of brick construction at a lower cost. Additionally, the increased use of prefabricated panels will reduce the demand for most masonry workers. These panels are created offsite by either contractors or manufacturers in climate-protected environments, but fewer masons are needed to install the panels at the construction site.
Employment of terrazzo workers and finishers is expected to decline due to the increased installation of polished concrete, which will shift some work from terrazzo workers to cement masons and concrete finishers.
Despite declining employment, about 24,800 openings for masonry workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.
Those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Overall job prospects should be good as construction activity continues to grow to meet the demand for new buildings and roads. Workers with construction experience should have the best opportunities.
As with many other construction workers, employment of masons is sensitive to the fluctuations of the economy. On the one hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, during peak periods of building activity some areas may require additional number of these workers.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2019||Projected Employment, 2029||Change, 2019-29|
|Brickmasons and blockmasons||81,900||76,700||-6||-5,200|
|Cement masons and concrete finishers||200,400||196,400||-2||-3,900|
|Terrazzo workers and finishers||3,000||2,700||-10||-300|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.